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News and Opinions about MS, Health & Disability

Even a little independence is a great feeling

If you have mobility problems, getting out and about is extremely difficult. And doing so without the constant presence of a helper, assistant, or caregiver is something that is next to impossible.

As multiple sclerosis affects my left side, I cannot propel myself in a manual wheelchair. So, forget any thoughts of independence. It’s just out of the question.

But earlier this week, I managed to visit both the health centre, and a bank, in our nearest town. Alone.

independence

This is my wheelchair.

It was all thanks to my lightweight, foldable electric wheelchair. It is so compact, when folded, that it goes in the back of our car. The only trouble is that, although lightweight, because of my disability, it’s still beyond my ability to lift by myself.

So on Tuesday, after I drove the five miles to town, Lisa lifted the chair out of the car and I was quickly on my way to see the nurse. Encountering just a short delay from my appointment time, I practiced my very basic Spanish language skills, and was soon on the second leg of my journey.

Worry-free independence

It’s a fairly long but straight road from the health centre to the bank, although it is uphill and has several side roads. I negotiated all the dropped kerbs successfully, and it really felt good to be able to do all of it by myself.

In the meantime, Lisa was doing a bit of shopping without having to worry about me.

We met back at our car, as arranged. Lisa was there first and suggested we visit a nearby snack bar for a pastry and orange juice.

Finally, we returned to the car where we jointly lifted the folded chair back into the car, before I drove home.

It wasn’t a great feat, and was nothing to shout about, but doing it by myself made me feel good.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Out and about by myself

By way of a change, I went out and about by myself yesterday morning. I went down our road, turned the corner and then quite some way down another road to see a couple with whom Lisa and I are friends.

The journey was well beyond my walking limit. I even have to sit down halfway from our door to the car in the drive and that is walking with the aid of a stick/cane. Any distance longer than that and Lisa has to  push me in my manual wheelchair. She doesn’t mind but it makes me feel so dependent

Yesterday, though, Lisa stayed at home and I went alone. It was exhilarating, it was fun.  No, I hadn’t made some sort of miraculous recovery.  wish I had but no, multiple sclerosis is still, regrettably, very much part of my life.

Yesterday’s freedom, and that was not the only example, was because I had just taken delivery of one of those fantastic all-singing, all-dancing lightweight folding electric wheelchairs. I had ordered one from Shaun Atkinson at Better Products for Disabled People it actually arrived on the promised day; amazing. My first impressions are that it is everything it is claimed to be – but I’ll be writing a full review once I have used it for a while.

06 blueI had already taken it out of our home, folded it up and somehow managed to place in in the back of the car. Today, it was taken it out of the car and unfolded it before I powered my way down to see our friends. Tremendous.

Then I reversed my journey and, having folded the chair, needed to sit down for a few minutes before having enough energy to lift it back into the car. But, in the end, I did just that.

Earlier, I used the wheelchair in our nearest town, when we went to see our doctor before enjoying breakfast in a local café bar.

As regular readers of this site know, I am travelling to Moscow this Sunday to undergo medical tests and assessment to determine whether or not I am likely to benefit from HSCT at a future date yet to be determined. My new chair is coming with me which will give me the independence I need in a foreign city.

 

 

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Wheelchair user’s dream: Motorized, foldable and lightweight

As regular readers will know, I am a bit of an advocate when it comes to accessibility and mobility issues and, from time to time, do address these subjects. Those subjects are of particular interest to me as I have to use a wheelchair as my mobility is severely restricted because of multiple sclerosis.

Occasionally, I come across something that simply deserves to be highlighted because it fulfills a need that people with disabilities have. For example, someone who needs a wheelchair to get about has a general choice of a manual or motorized one.

A manual one either has to be self-propelled, if the user is physically able to do so, or be pushed, so the wheelchair user has to relinquish independence and rely on someone else.

The alternative, as I have discovered, is not much better. Motorized wheelchairs are great to use, easy to maneuver and control and give the user the feeling of real independence. However, they have a major downside too – and that is their weight. They are so heavy.

In fact, anyone that uses a motorized chair and wants to take it to different places needs a specially adapted vehicle with either a hoist, ramp or elevator platform to load the chair on board.

BUT, there is an answer to the problem. There are now good quality, lightweight, folding motorized chairs that make the old problems disappear:

  • They give the user the independence provided by all motorized chairs;06 blue
  • They fold-up in seconds to go in the boot (trunk) of even a small car;
  • They are light enough to be lifted easily into and out of a car by one person;
  • Their batteries simply pull out in seconds to be transported separately on aircraft;
  • They are light enough to be carried on and off tenders if the user is going on a cruise holiday.

Talking of cruises, here is a report from Emma. She had just taken delivery of one such folding motorized chair from Better Products for Disabled People. This is her story:

Earlier this month my husband and I set off on our first ever cruise, heading to the Norwegian Fjords. We had been recommended cruising for its excellent accessibility but had no idea what it would be like.

We were taking my new folding motorized wheelchair but were concerned after the warnings from the cruise company about narrow doors and door thresholds. We need not have worried.

For a week I had more freedom than I’ve had at any point since my MS took most of my eyesight; I could navigate the ship just fine, the wheelchair took it all in its stride. Door thresholds were no problem; narrow corridors and doors were only an issue because of my lack of sight and skill and I improved quickly.

The battery handled it brilliantly; I spent at least eight hours a day in the wheelchair zooming around deck, attending shows, going to meals or out on excursions and never had a single problem.

What I did have were lots of admiring glances which turned into questions about where I got my wheelchair from and how I like it. Who would have thought I would be a travelling sales woman? BPDP folding electric wheelchair you are an international lifesaver.

Now, you cannot say better than that. Much to the relief of my wife, Lisa, my BPDP chair is on order. When it arrives, we’ll have the best of both worlds. I’ll get my independence back as I use a motorized chair and it will come out and go back into the car as simply as a manual chair.

 

Better Products for Disabled People <<http://better-products-for-disabled-people.myshopify.com>>

 

new strap

 

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Musical chairs? Finding the right wheelchair

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The two wheelchairs I have. Left, the Invacare Mirage electric power chair and, right, the Drive Medical XS2 lightweight aluminium manual chair.

It’s pretty well known, I think, that those of us that live with multiple sclerosis have good days and bad days. And I am not talking about relapses here, just things like fatigue or one of many other difficulties we learn to deal with on a daily basis.

Take mobility as just one example. Like most people with MS, I’d like to walk more and, on a good day, I really do try with the aid of a walking stick. But, no matter how great I might feel, any walk is overcome by a need to take a break and rest after10 or 15 yards at an absolute maximum. If I need to get from the house to our car, I can do it in stages; there is a convenient place to sit to break the journey into two.

On a bad day, when there is trouble even getting out of our door, it is necessary to use a wheelchair. Even what starts out as a good day can turn bad later on. On more than one occasion, after I have struggled to walk into a restaurant, Lisa has gone to get my manual wheelchair out of the car to enable me to get back without falling.

Now that brings me to the interesting subject of wheelchairs that come in a variety of forms but for the purpose of this blog, let me look at three types: the large-wheel self-propel manual chair; the small-wheeled attendant or transport chair; and the electric powered chair.

The transport chair means that the chair user has no independence and is totally reliant on the services of an attendant or carer. I have always accepted help from my wife Lisa, and she is more than happy to push my chair, but in certain circumstances I need my independence so a transport chair was never on my horizon.

The self-propelled chair enables the chair user to get about by controlling the chair through the large wheels surmounted by hand grips. It can also be used by an attendant, so this has the advantage of both.

A  chair of this type was a good idea as it folded up easily to go into the car but it did little to help independence as MS affects my left side and makes anything more than small movements impossible. My left hand cannot hold the wheel’s hand grip either, so it goes onto the tyre instead. The net result is that, by myself, I can execute wonderful left-hand circles but nothing more.

The electric wheelchair tends to be a much heavier piece of equipment, after all, it includes motor(s) and batteries and there are options for user control only, attendant control or even dual. What’s more, a free wheel option enables the chair to be pushed if it runs out of power. There are some foldable electric chairs on the market now and these could be ideal for transporting by car but the heavier types really need a wheelchair accessible vehicle with ramp or lift of some kind.

An electric powered chair is excellent for us to be together, without creating work for Lisa, and gives me my much valued independence to travel more than 15 yards alone. On the downside, it is heavy and won’t fit into a standard car. So we now have a seven-seater with sliding rear passenger doors. Just the ticket.

The portable ramp takes a bit of practice to assemble and disassemble but Lisa is happy to do that.

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